Preparing for Death

Chanakya Pandit says that “If you want to make spiritual advancement, then you should always think that “Death is next moment. Death is next moment.”

Excerpt from lecture on Srimad-Bhagavatam
Canto 1, Chapter 4, Text 25, Montreal, June 20, 1968
By His Divine Grace A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada

Parikshit Maharaja, he was a powerful king. He was equipped with all, everything, but he did not counteract the curse [1]. He could counteract that curse. He was so powerful, but he accepted: “All right. I am cursed. I shall give up my life within seven days.” That means he took it as an opportunity that “I am going to death within seven days. That is certain. And I must prepare myself fully so that my next life I can approach Krishna.” So this is a good opportunity, that “I have got seven days’ time.” We haven’t got seven seconds’ time. We do not know. Nobody has served me notice. We find by practical experience that we are walking on the street—all of a sudden there is some accident, and we die. There is possibility. So the important point is that Maharaja Parikshit was fortunate enough to get seven days’ time before his death. But we do not know how much time is there for our death. So how much serious we shall be. Chanakya Pandit says that “If you want to make spiritual advancement, then you should always think that “Death is next moment. Death is next moment.” Because there is no guarantee when death is coming. If I think that death is next moment, that is not any utopian. The next moment may be my death. And Chanakya Pandit says, “But if you want to be materially happy, you should always think that ‘I shall never die,’ ” although it is false idea. Everyone will die.

So Parikshit Maharaja, he was preparing. How he was preparing? He did not take seven days even a drop of water. He sat down tight on the bank of the Ganges, and Shukadeva Goswami narrated this Srimad-Bhagavatam, and he heard, and at the end of seven days, at the particular time, he was bitten by a snake and he left this world.

Now, the beginning of the Second Canto of Srimad-Bhagavatam is the answer, sri-shuka uvacha: “Sri Shukadeva Goswami said…” Because in the previous chapter the question was put by Maharaja Parikshit, that “What is my duty? What is my duty?” Because he wanted to know about Krishna, so Shukadeva Goswami is approving his very nice prashna, question:

variyan esha te prashnah
krito loka-hitam nripa
atmavit sammatah pumsam
shrotavyadishu yah parah
[SB 2.1.1]

“My dear King Parikshit, you have put very nice question. And to hear about Krishna is the topmost subject of hearing.” Shrotavyadishu yah parah. Parah means topmost, the highest. “So your question, whether to hear about Krishna, is welcome.” Variyan esha te prashnah krito loka-hitam nripa: [SB 2.1.1] “This question is very much beneficial to the people in general,” loka-hitam. Parikshit Maharaja was questioning and Shukadeva Goswami was answering, but there were many other persons. Although the questions and answers were only for Parikshit Maharaja, not for others, everyone expected that because Shukadeva Goswami was speaking to the king, that speaking must be very important to everyone. So all the great sages… Even the father of Shukadeva Goswami, Vyasadeva, who is the compiler of so many Vedic literatures, he also came there to hear his sixteen-years-old boy—he was so elevated. It does not matter whether a man is old or young; it is the question of knowledge. So Shukadeva Goswami was so elevated that so many persons assembled there. And Suta Goswami, who spoke the Srimad-Bhagavatam for the second time amongst the sages of Naimisharanya, he was also present in that meeting, and he heard from Shukadeva Goswami, and he repeated to the sages of Naimisharanya. So sri-krishna-shravanadhi-prayena parama-prashna krita esha tu variyan. Shukadeva Goswami is congratulating Maharaja Parikshit, that “You have raised the question of Krishna, understanding Krishna. It is very welcome.” Yah prashno ‘pi shrotavyadishu param: “Such kind of question is the topmost question, topmost question. There is no more better question than this.” In other words, when you become inquisitive to understand the Krishna consciousness, then those very questions will elevate you to the highest perfectional stage.

So, shrotavyadishu yah para, yasya prashna syapi shravanadau paramah purusharthah. Now, Shukadeva Goswami says that “The question put by you and the answers which I shall give to you, even the general persons who are assembled here, they do not understand it rightly, but simply hearing that mantra, or the answers, will give them the highest quality benefit.” In another place it is stated, shrinvatam sva-kathah krishnah punya-shravana-kirtanah [SB 1.2.17]. Now, the classes which we hold here we invite everyone, and those who are fortunate, they come here. But even those who are coming here, they do not understand the philosophy, but simply by hearing the vibration of Hare Krishna or the sound vibration, just like I am speaking to you, they will be benefited, even without understanding. It is such a nice thing. Shrinvatam sva-kathah krishnah punya-shravana-kirtanah. That description of Krishna, is itself a pious activity, punya-shravana. Because it is pious, so anyone who is speaking or anyone who is hearing, both of them are benefited. How they are benefited?

shrinvatam sva-kathah krishnah
hridy antah-stho hy abhadrani
vidhunoti suhrit satam
[SB 1.2.17]

Krishna is situated in everyone’s heart. It is not that because I am a sannyasi, Krishna is sitting within my heart. No. Krishna is sitting in everyone’s heart. Ishvarah sarva-bhutanam hrid-deshe ‘rjuna tishthati [Bhagavad-gita 18.61]. And He is sentient. He is perfect in knowledge. So this very act, that one is trying to understand Krishna, that makes Krishna very pleased. Because he has kindly come here, so Krishna is within you, and because you are giving your patient hearing, He is already pleased. He is already pleased with you. And the effect will be that shrinvatam sva-kathah krishnah punya-shravana-kirtanah, hridy antah-stho hy abhadrani. Abhadra means the nasty things which we have accumulated within our heart since time immemorial. The beginning is that “I am this body,” this conception. This is animal conception, “I am this body.” So due to this misconception of our life, we have accumulated many dirty and dusty things within our heart. So if we hear Srimad-Bhagavatam or Bhagavad-gita, even if we do not understand it, the action will be there. The action will be there. Just like if you touch fire, either you understand it or not understand it, that fire is fire. It will burn your finger. Just like if a child, he does not understand what is fire, but if he touches fire, his fingers or hand will be burned immediately. There is no mercy: “Oh, here is an innocent child. He does not know.” No. the law of nature will act. Similarly, krishna-katha, punya-shravana-kirtana, it is so pious and it is so spiritual that anyone who will hear it, either by understanding or without understanding, the action will be there like fire. So variyan esha te prashnah [SB 2.1.1: “Sri Shukadeva Goswami said: My dear King, your question is glorious because it is very beneficial to all kinds of people. The answer to this question is the prime subject matter for hearing, and it is approved by all transcendentalists.”].

1. – Maharaja Parikshit was the grandson of King Yudhisthira, head of the Pandava warriors, who lived five thousand years ago and famously fought and won in the Mahabharata war. Parikshit Maharaja happened one day to visit a hermitage while out hunting. The son of the brahmana who resided there unduly cursed Parikshit Maharaja to die by snake bite in seven days. This story is narrated in Srimad-Bhagavatam, Canto One, Chapter Eighteen.

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